LEO: County Attorney - Attorney - Client LE Op. 1145

 

County Attorney - Attorney - Client Relationship - Disclosure:

Statutory Requirement to Advise Board of Supervisors

of the Legality or Illegality of the Claim.

 

October 24, 1988

 

You have advised that as county attorney you are required to represent

the county in any claim for payment brought before the board of

supervisors and advise the board as to the legality of illegality of any

such claim, pursuant to 15.1-550, of the Code of Virginia. This

provision further requires the county attorney to seek the advice of the

Attorney General or State Auditor of Public Accounts as to any claim which,

in the opinion of the county attorney or any six freeholders of the county,

is not in proper accounting form or which may be illegal. If the claim is

deemed illegal, then the attorney for the Commonwealth shall appeal the

decision from the board to the Circuit Court of the county. Whenever any

claim allowed by the board is declared illegal by a court of competent

jurisdiction, the Commonwealth's attorney or the county attorney shall

institute proper proceedings in the Circuit Court of his county if such

amount has already been paid.

 

You wish to know whether a conflict exists under the county attorney's

statutory obligation imposed by 15.1-550 of the Code of Virginia and

the county attorney's obligation to his client.

 

The Committee believes that the provisions enumerated in the statute do

not conflict with the attorney's obligation to his client, as the

attorney's duty is to represent the county before the board and, in doing

so, shall advise the board of any claim which in the attorney's opinion,

or in the opinion of any six freeholders of the county, is illegal or in

improper form. If a claim is allowed, notwithstanding the attorney's

advice, the county attorney shall seek the advice of the Attorney General

or the State Auditor of Public Accounts who will have the Commonwealth's

attorney, not the county attorney, appeal the board's decision if deemed

illegal.

 

The Committee opines that the statutory obligations vested in a county

attorney, pursuant to 15.1-550, Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended,

does not violate any of the disciplinary rules or ethical considerations

under the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility, nor does it create

a conflict between what statutory law requires an attorney to do and an

attorney's loyalty to his client. The Committee would suggest making full

and adequate disclosure to the board of your statutory obligations, as

well as the duty to represent the county.

 

Committee Opinion October 24, 1988